BOOK REVIEW: Perennials for Every Purpose

Post last updated: March 10th, 2017

perennials every purpose2.

My first introduction to Perennials for Every Purpose: Choose the Right Plants for Your Conditions, Your Garden, and Your Taste by Larry Hodgson (2003) was finding the 2000 edition on the shelves at the library. 

The majority of Amazon reviewers give this book a five-star rating. I agree.

The book was written and edited by Rodale Press before they apparently fired all their editors. You won’t find annoying sentences that freeze your eyeballs in disbelief. One of Rodale’s 2011 offerings was so poorly edited that I gave up on it before reaching the second chapter. I wouldn’t have given it half a star. I don’t blame the writer. The job of an editor is to fine tune an author’s work to best represent both the writer and the publishing house.

With “more than 700 perennials,” Rodale Press accurately depicted Perennials for Every Purpose as encyclopedic. Each perennial has a two-page spread with a color photo of the plant and flower. Also included are growing tips, companion plants, problems/solutions, recommended varieties and a sidebar Plant Profile with vital statistics such as bloom color, bloom time, length of bloom, height, spread, methods for use (container, cut flower garden, meadow, etc.), light and soil preference, how to propagate and – DRUM ROLL – info on both the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones and the AHS (American Horticultural Society) Heat Zones. The heat zone information is particularly valuable to gardeners in the deep south. In other words, a plant may be hardy but not heat tolerant in the southern zones of Northeast Florida and even further south. The inclusion of this information is the reason I bought the book.

In Part 1, author Hodgson covers starting your garden, picking the perfect perennials, designing your dream garden, and plant care. In Part 2, he covers ever blooming, spring blooming, summer blooming, fall blooming, no care, low care, drought resistant, water-loving, shade loving, fab foliage, ground cover and pollinator perennials. Great book!

24 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Perennials for Every Purpose”

  1. The down side to books by northern USA and Canadian writers is that they tend to talk about how plants perform in their gardens. I put off ordering a book about perennials in the deep South until it was no longer available.

    1. Nell Jean — I find that same problem. No one really addresses the warm south and the problems we have here with humidity. They are ALL big Hosta and Peony fans, neither of which can be grown in Florida. If you still know the name of the book or the author, check amazon. Seriously. Lots of used books show up there.

        1. Nell Jean, I try not to think about astilbe, either. The same author has a book on shade plants and he tried to claim some of those fanciful plants we dream of down here would grow in my Zone. Needless to say, with those kinds of errors, that book won’t be reviewed on my blog. As for the gingers, I didn’t like the every-which-way their leaves stuck out so they were banished to the woods. I can still get to them if I should ever change my mind. I have the fragrant, white flowered ginger and a pinecone ginger. I had a question in my mind all day yesterday that I wanted to ask you but, of course, I can’t remember it now.

  2. There is nothing like a good garden book…You can hold it in the garden while you figure out what will happen if you choose to carry on with garden endeavors in question. It is kind of like Linus and his blanket. Anyway, books are my choice for info! Thanks for the garden book info!

  3. Hi Linda, I know what you mean when you say gardening books often aren’t relevant to your particular region. That’s why I’ve learned to borrow books freely from the library, but not to pay money for books that aren’t Australian. Amazon is good, but they make you pay postage outside the US and Canada, so I usually use Book Depository.

    Did you know that Holley at has a meme that you can link your book reviews to? It comes out each month on the 20th. I’m sure people would be very interested to hear about this book.

    1. Cat Mint – Yes I knew about Holley’s meme because I follow her blog but I couldn’t remember what day of the month. I’m glad you mentioned Book Depository as an international source with free worldwide shipping. Amazon does not have free shipping unless you meet a specific dollar amount and the books from other vendors on Amazon are always $3.99.

  4. I will look for this book. I’m starting from scratch in a Zone 7 to 8 temperate rain forest area after livng in a Zone 4 prairie region. Huge learning curve. Many plants growing here are new to me. The book sounds like it will be a handy dandy reference and may cut back on my frustration. Thanks.

    1. Susan – I hope it does help steer you in the right direction. So many of the garden articles and books don’t help us in the South AT ALL because the old garden stand-bys like astilbe, hosta, peony, and tulips don’t grow here.

  5. I buy all my books used, too. And I’m so glad you join in the meme, because I had not heard of this book before, but it sounds like one I could really use! Over 700 perennials – I’m impressed! And I have found the heat index is not often used, but oh, so valuable. This book is going on my must-have list.

  6. Looks like this is a must have for the garden library-hard copy. Due to tech-world (and I do love it), I tend to do more quick internet research on specifics rather than an encyclopedic hard copy but I’ve checked it out and will definitely add it to my library. Thanks or the info Jones, most appreciated.

  7. I garden in the west where it is hot and dry. I’m trying to plant more ‘water wise’ type plants. Thank you for the book review. I see that it’s available at my local library, and I just requested a copy. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    1. Dorothy – I hope you like it as much as I do. Your library, like mine, probably has the older copy with a greenish cover. When I bought it, I got the newer edition with purple cover. Probably has even more perennials.

  8. Great review. I especially like that this book includes heat tolerance info because it is so often left out of many references. I find I need at least one zone higher on the scale to make sure my plant makes it through summer.

    I love that you included your source of Amazon and the price and am making a note to include that in future reviews as it did get a comment about the price.

    1. Shirley – Thanks for stopping by; read your book review but the book sounded so philosophical. The book I reviewed is the FIRST I’ve found with the heat index and down here that’s important. As to the purchasing info, I like to include some “frugal” stuff but I don’t make a big deal of it.

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